Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Blog

Otto Stockmeyer

Recent Posts

Distractions and LSAT Test Prep

September 14

Amy Dickinson is a syndicated advice columnist. In a recent installment of “Ask Amy” she responded to a letter from “Chatty-Sister.” Sis complained that her brother, who was living at home while preparing for the LSAT, demands absolute silence in the house when he takes practice tests.

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Note to legal writers: You CAN start sentences with But.

August 27

My colleague Joe Kimble has attempted to refute the common superstition against beginning a sentence with the word "but."

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The Liberty Bell Award Has Michigan Roots

July 31

On May 1 each year, thousands of people and organizations across the nation participate in Law Day, celebrating the role of law in American society. Of the many events that make up Law Day, few capture its spirit as well as a program first developed in our own state, the Liberty Bell Award. The award honors persons or entities outside of the legal profession that have contributed to a greater understanding of our legal system, participated in it to the betterment of their communities, or helped to strengthen and improve the American system of justice.

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Trailblazing Women Chief Justices

May 31

Otto Stockmeyer is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. This article is from the Spring 2019 issue of The Mentor, newsletter of the State Bar of Michigan Master Lawyers Section. Professor Stockmeyer is a member of the Section Council. His previous blog posts are cataloged here. 

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Corral Those Stray Commas Says WMU-Cooley's Otto Stockmeyer

April 29

Recently I encountered three examples of comma misuse among legal writers. At first I thought the comma faults were random. But then I noticed they had something in common; in each case the comma preceded a verb. The commas create the impression of a runner stumbling midway to the finish line. From a law-school student publication: “May the odds forever, be in your favor.” From a legal newspaper: “And a lot of these kids, were really good players.” From a law-school press release: “[The law school] is committed to pursuing a collaborative approach in working with the Council, to continue meeting ABA standards.”

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Tips For Making A Presentation

March 11

Lawyers are trained to be expert communicators. Yet speaking before a group can be an intimidating prospect for some, whether it’s a civic club luncheon, trade association meeting, or bar association CLE program. Rejoice if you are invited to make a speaking presentation, as there are many ways it can benefit your practice. Here are some tips for making your presentation an effective and impressive one.

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Judge Fitzgerald's Final Precedent

February 20

Judge E. Thomas Fitzgerald of Owosso, Michigan, passed away December 27, 2018, at age 79. He was a trial lawyer for 24 years before his election to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1990. He served on the court for another 24 years before retiring in 2014.

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Brief Award Recipient Becomes Chief Justice

February 05

One of Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School’s oldest and finest traditions is presentation of the Distinguished Brief Awards. Since 1985, Distinguished Brief Awards have been given in recognition of the most scholarly briefs filed in the Michigan Supreme Court, as selected by a panel of eminent lawyers, judges, and faculty members. Two or three briefs are chosen annually and are printed in their entirely in the WMU-Cooley Law Review. The award reflects the law school’s longstanding commitment to teaching and celebrating effective legal writing.

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Specifics Make It Real

January 28

Strunk & White’s classic guide to good writing, The Elements of Style, urges writers to use definite, specific, and concrete language. “Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract.” The goal is to write “with such accuracy and vigor that the reader, in imagination, can project himself into the scene.”

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Will the Uniform Bar Exam Come to Michigan?

January 14

Last October the Michigan Board of Law Examiners posted the names of 451 law graduates who passed the July 2018 Michigan Bar Examination.  Most of them probably hoped never to have to endure a bar exam again. But today’s reality is that more than one-third will likely change jobs within three years of law school graduation. And many would like to look for employment beyond our borders.

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